Report: World Cup 2022 starts 1 day earlier than planned

GENEVA (AP) – Host country Qatar will, after all, play in the opening game of their own World Cup – on a separate day scheduled just under 100 days before kick-off.

The football’s marquee tournament is now set to start a day earlier than originally planned seven years ago, which would allow Qatar to play Ecuador on November 20, a person familiar with the proposal told The Associated Press on Wednesday.

The person spoke on condition of anonymity as the person was not authorized to discuss the matter.

The proposal will be put to a committee composed of FIFA President Gianni Infantino and the heads of the six continental football bodies, the person said. A decision is expected later this week.

According to a letter sent by FIFA this week and seen by AP, the governing body is asking for approval from continental football’s governing bodies by Thursday.

Qatar should now be given an exclusive Sunday seat for their opening ceremony and World Cup debut at the 60,000-seat Al Bayt Stadium.

The World Cup is currently scheduled to start on November 21, a Monday, based on a 2015 FIFA decision after they agreed to postpone the tournament to avoid the extreme desert heat of June and July. FIFA has also agreed on a shorter 28-day program to minimize disruption to domestic football, particularly in Europe, which will be shut down ahead of the World Cup.

The recent World Cup tradition gave hosts Brazil 2014 and hosts Russia 2018 exclusive opening days to face off against their first opponents. But Qatar’s tighter schedule required four games a day for the entire group stage – 48 games over 12 days.

The tournament draw in Doha on 1 April saw the Netherlands, Senegal and Ecuador join Qatar in Group A. The Netherlands and Senegal were given a 1pm local time start and Qatar scored six in their third game against Ecuador on a late night kick-off Hours later.

The proposal to create a 29-day tournament instead of 28 was favored by Qatari officials and South American football’s governing body CONMEBOL, with talks also involving the football associations of Qatar and Ecuador, the person told AP.

FIFA acknowledged in its letter that changing the date after the ticket sale would affect some traveling fans. However, FIFA said that “any risk is commercially sufficiently outweighed by the value and benefit of the proposal”.

A match between Qatar and Ecuador involves few players who play for European clubs. A number of players from Ecuador’s prospective squad play for clubs in Spain, the United States and Mexico, where the leagues will close ahead of the weekend of November 12-13.

It would have been more difficult to agree to the schedule change had Qatar opened against the Netherlands, in which key members play with clubs in England and Italy until November 13.

As a result of the proposal, FIFA is expected to move the Netherlands-Senegal game from the start of the midday slot to the early evening slot that would be vacated by Qatar.

While an opening game on a Sunday night in Qatar should resonate with viewers in Asia and Europe, it puts the World Cup in direct competition with NFL games in the US. The US soccer team will play their World Cup opener against Wales as a late Monday game in Qatar.

The 2022 World Cup is the first in the tournament’s 92-year history to be held outside of the traditional Northern Hemisphere summer. The previous 21 editions were all played between the end of May and the end of July.

21 Nov-Dec An 18-tournament schedule was agreed to allow European clubs to play over the weekend of November 12-13 before releasing their players to the 32 World Cup teams. The change in the opening day should not change the tournament rule that players must register their clubs with the national teams by November 14 at the latest, FIFA said in its letter.

The final will be played on Qatar’s National Day, a Sunday, giving players a full week to return to clubs before the Premier League hosts its traditional Boxing Day matches on December 26.

Qatar’s original bid to host the tournament in June-July promised innovative stadium cooling technology to beat the heat, which is expected to reach 45 degrees Celsius (113 degrees Fahrenheit) during the inaugural World Cup in the Middle East.

In December 2010, Qatar won a controversial bid competition, beating the United States 14-8 in a final round of FIFA Executive Committee voting, a group later widely discredited by corruption scandals.

More than four years later, FIFA moved the tournament to dates when temperatures should be between 25 and 30 degrees C (77 to 86 degrees F).

Now, another seven years later, the dates are set to change again.


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